Bemoan a state where even blow jobs between consenting partners are only quasilegal. That´s easy. Forget nanny state, this is a bishop state, where public policy is geared more for family home evening than a sexy Valentine´s Day celebration.
But Utah has a lewd — and legal — underside dressed in nothing except a tattered copy of the U.S. Constitution.
Navigating the naughty waters of that lewd — but legal — side sometimes requires professional help. We asked the chairman of Utah’s Libertarian Party and previous candidate for Utah Attorney General, defense attorney Andrew McCullough to give six sex tips to flirt with the edge of legality — without going over. McCullough is best known for his defense of sex shops, escorts and strip clubs.
One thing to note immediately, however, is this is not legal advice that will keep you out of jail. Police and prosecutors don’t always know or agree with the implications of the newest, sexiest court precedents and it sometimes takes lengthy — and expensive — legal processes to prove you were acting lawfully. So boff at your own risk, but these tips will help you know the law — which is, after all, your responsibility as a citizen.
While there’s nothing legal — or sexy or tolerable — about child pornography, McCullough says both the purchase and possession of adult pornography in Utah is legal. Selling “obscene” or hardcore pornography, however, is illegal and sometimes prosecuted. Whether it’s purchased online or from a brick-and-mortar store, “If you can get it into your possession, then you’re home free,” McCullough says. Some online subscription-based pornography services will deny you if you enter a Utah ZIP code, but the Internet also offers a load of free porn — some great porn blogs — you can “read.”
This one is tricky like a Romeo and Juliet suicide pact. Utah’s felony prohibitions against having sex with those under 18 years old have one large exception: If you are nine or fewer years older than your consenting 16- or 17-year-old sex partner, then felonies don’t apply, and the only laws you’re breaking are misdemeanors against fornication — sex outside of wedlock — which have been ruled unconstitutional anyway. “Does that mean someone wouldn’t be prosecuted if, say, the girl is 17 and the guy is 26? If her mother puts up a furious enough fight, could she convince [a prosecutor] to file those charges? I wouldn’t be willing to bet,” McCullough says. “But, if you’re [within the age limits], [charges are] less likely to be filed and it’s obviously very much less likely that you’ll be severely punished for it.”
Many Utah cities confine sexually oriented businesses — or as the Moral Majority abbreviates with a twinkle in its eye, “SOBs” — to outlying or industrial areas using zoning laws. “They want you off somewhere where no one can find you,” McCullough says. For stores, many cities set limits—like no more than 15 percent of floor space can be for, or total receipts may come from, dildos, vibrators and other sex toys — to avoid the SOB classification. This is how gift- and novelty-shop Spencer’s slips sex toys into shopping malls from Weber to Utah County. In 2008, the Layton Hills Mall store was raided by police and had all its dildos — even penis-shaped gummy candies — seized; not because the products are illegal but because they were not confined to a back room for adults only. The sex toys are now back—in a back room.
“Escorts are not prostitutes,” McCullough says, but they can be dinner companions, hiking partners, or even naked, private dancers. You can’t buy sexual-contact favors anywhere in Utah, but what you can do with an escort varies by city. In Salt Lake City, for example, getting naked with your naked escort is legal. As long as you register for your escort 24 hours in advance, and “sign a little statement that says ‘I want nude services,’” McCullough says the escort can take his or her clothes off with you. That’s not a joke. “The 24 hours provides some semblance of propriety, but not a lot,” McCullough says. “They can dance for you, put on a show. They’re licensed as sexually oriented entertainers.”
If you’re feeling lonely or randy this Valentine’s Day, remember that a willing partner may be just a www-dot away in chat rooms, MySpace, Facebook ... anywhere there is conversation, basically. “That’s legal, as long as the actual act doesn’t occur in public,” McCullough says.
Even sex in “public” can be done legally, provided you have a reasonable basis for believing that no one would or could detect you knockin’ boots. “Reasonable,” of course, is subjective, so it’s better to ask, “Would a jury in this county think this location is ‘reasonable’?” rather than, “Do I think it’s ‘reasonable’?” But, if there’s zero chance anyone can see the sex, and you’re not trespassing, it’s probably legal. Indeed, even if a caravan of limousines with blacked-out windows carried pansexual orgy parties around Temple Square during General Conference with a signs advertising “Carnal sin-fest inside,” no laws would be broken until someone actually saw the debauchery, McCullough says. “If a casual passerby is likely to see you, then you’re in deep doo-doo. Otherwise, you’re fine.” He warns, though, that advertising such a sinful event might entice a passerby to claim to have seen through the blacked-out windows, in which case, it could be a jury’s prerogative to believe that “witness.” So, watch out.
For more fun reading on this topic, see: